Life for a night deputy is lived in the dark. Criminals are harder to spot, drugs are easier to hide and citizens are more likely to be drinking.
“Alcohol is big on the night shift,” said Richmond County Sheriff’s Cpl. William McCarty. “Fights after the bars close and domestic calls.”
McCarty is part of Richmond County Sheriff’s Office C shift. They work seven 12-hour shifts every 14 days starting at 6 p.m. and ending around 6 a.m.
McCarty has been a police officer in Richmond County for 22 years, including three years as an investigator and nine years with the motorcycle division.
His work day starts when the sun goes down, or as Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten puts it, after normal working hours when “a majority of our violent deaths happen.”
Here’s what happened on a recent night:
5:54 p.m.: An attempted armed robbery on Running Creek Lane. The woman is shaking and crying so hard she can barely tell her story. A man with a gun had come to her door to rob her. She caught him off guard by shoving him over her wheelchair ramp and sprinting past him to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor said she had actually run though their door. She didn’t remember that.
7 p.m.: A ride through Cherry Tree Crossing. Three police cars approach the public housing development together. They put their windows down and ride slowly, their eyes darting back and forth for trouble. One senses hostility from the residents. One day after shots were fired at deputies, the officers are back.
When someone darts off to the right, the first car speeds up to try and shorten the distance. He stops quickly at a dead end and two officers bolt from the car. Normally the deputies ride alone, but this car has a trainee.
The officers dart after the suspect behind a house and McCarty pulls up behind the abandoned police car. He is there as backup and protection.
McCarty scans the ground for drugs and finds a small bag of marijuana.
When the deputy and rookie return, they’re alone.
“He got too much of a jump on us,” says the trainee. However, they did find the drugs, and they will be back.
8:04 p. m.: A woman has apparently killed herself. There is a stroller in the doorway and a highchair in the kitchen. Deputies discover the child is with the father. Sgt. Perry Keith is on scene to supervise. This is not the first time they have seen a body, but that does not mean it’s easy.
After this call it’s time for a break. Lunch time is around 9:30. McCarty and Deputy George Meyers meet at a local police favorite, Logan’s Roadhouse on Robert C. Daniel Parkway.
Inside, at least three other deputies are finishing up. The waitresses recognizes the officers and brings them a Coke and an ice tea before they ask.
Meyers is only recently out of training. He spent 16 weeks with McCarty getting to know the area, and the shift. The two have grown close and since their beats are close, they often meet up for meals.
Both men never relax though. Their heads tilt to the left as they put an ear to their radios every time dispatch speaks. Good thing, because both officers get a call and have to cut lunch short.
9:48 p.m.: McCarty is called to a house off Almond Drive. He looks surprised at his computer. Dispatch is signaling a pornography call, which he doesn’t often see.
It turns out that a woman received a lewd picture that upset her.
10:15 p.m.: A domestic dispute on Ellis Street. When McCarty arrives, a woman is telling a harrowing story of her daughter’s boyfriend. There is a little girl, 7, who silently goes in the house and gets her laundry. She comes back out and stands next to Deputy Brett Espinosa. She has been through this before.
11:20 p.m.: Two accidents at Washington Road and Boy Scout Road. On the scene Deputy Bert Gates has a man in the back of his squad car. Suddenly the suspect starts kicking Gates’ car window.
“Why are you kicking my car?” he asks. Seconds later, the man is back at it.
Gates whips out the ankle cuffs and restrains the suspect in his car. His face is dangerously close to the man’s legs.
“Sir, if you kick me, you are going to have a really bad night,” he says.
12:51 a.m.: An accident at 15th and Branch streets. A man who says he was on the way to pick up his little boy has wrapped his minivan around a pole. He is slurring and can’t walk so he leaves in an ambulance.
McCarty and Keith try to piece together what might have happened. They check the vehicle for evidence of another car, to see if perhaps it was a hit-and-run. They ultimately decide there was not.
Next stop for McCarty is a trip to Medical College of Georgia Hospital to see the driver and get him to agree to a blood alcohol content test.
McCarty will see a fourth accident before the end of his shift where he will administer another alcohol test.
He and Keith admit that it is not easy being on the night shift. The hours make it difficult for a normal life, even on their days off. It can get depressing seeing people on one of the worst days of their lives.
“Sometimes it gets hard.” McCarty said. “But, I want to help people. After 22 years, I still get up every day and enjoy going to work.”